Ben Grinsteiner's first football memory was watching Super Bowl XLI in 2007. His dad encouraged him to root for the Colts, while his mom told him to root for the Bears. He picked the Colts. Good thing he did.
Fifteen years later, Grinsteiner – a rabid Colts fan from North Dakota who's religiously followed the team via NFL Sunday Ticket for years – won four 2023 Colts season tickets for predicting the most games correctly in Jim Irsay's Million Dollar Schedule Challenge.
Over 22,000 fans entered the contest, which was pretty straightforward: Predict all 18 weeks of the Colts' regular season schedule before it was released in mid-May. Fans had to guess the opponent in a given week and if the game was home or away, as well as when the Colts' bye week would be.
Grinsteiner predicted nine of the 18 weeks correctly:
- Week 1: vs. Jacksonville
- Week 3: at Baltimore
- Week 4: vs. Los Angeles Rams
- Week 5: vs. Tennessee
- Week 8: vs. New Orleans
- Week 10: at New England
- Week 12: vs. Tampa Bay
- Week 15: vs. Pittsburgh
- Week 17: vs. Las Vegas
"It was just pure luck guessing," Grinsteiner said.
There was a little more method than just pure luck, though. Grinsteiner figured the Colts would open the season with an AFC South opponent for a second consecutive year and for the third time in the last four seasons. He guessed the Colts would play NFC opposition in consecutive weeks late in the season, which led him to get Week 12's game right.
But from there? It really was guessing.
Since there's no real methodology to trying to predict which schedule the league will go with out of an immense number of possibilities.
"When I got the email (saying I won), I honestly thought it was fake," Grinsteiner said. "I didn't even remember what I even entered.
"It's by far the luckiest thing that ever happened to me."
Grinsteiner, with nine of 18 weeks correctly predicted, won the contest. One other entrant got eight weeks correct, while 11 got seven week correct; 14,558 entrants got one or zero weeks correct.
|Weeks correct||Number of entries||Percent of entries|
Grinsteiner is already planning out his fall to see what games he can attend while working around his schedule – he works gameday operations for the University of North Dakota hockey team – but already knows he'll be at the Colts' Week 17 game against the Raiders to celebrate he and his girlfriend's anniversary.
Grinsteiner's favorite all-time Colts are Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne – "honestly, he should've been a first-ballot Hall of Famer," Grinsteiner said. "I can't believe he wasn't. Ridiculous" – and his current Colts favorites are Shaquille Leonard and Jonathan Taylor.
"I also think Anthony Richardson's going to make his way into my favorite list pretty soon here," he added.
For Grinsteiner, the opportunity to see his Colts in person this season with his four season tickets is incredible – and all because he managed to correctly guess half of the Colts' schedule in Irsay's contest.
"It's obviously my favorite team, I've been a fan since I was six years old and I've always wanted to be a season ticket holder for the Colts," Grinsteiner said. "It's just happening sooner than I thought it would be."